The best tips for data enhancement and data validation for your online business
August 16, 2017
Internet business needs data in the same way a baker needs flour. Companies working successfully on the Internet appreciate well-structured and comprehensive customer data. These include contact data as well as information about hobbies, preferences, profession, purchase behavior, etc. Detailed and correct product data are also essential to online shops.
Whether customer or product data, the following always applies: The more, the better. However, people want to keep their data private. Product data are not always as available as they ought to be. This post will show you how you can nevertheless obtain usable data sets.
In Part A, we are looking at the data enhancement and data validation of customers and prospective customers information. In Part B, we focus on the product data. In Part C, we briefly explain how to proceed with further types of data.
A) Enhancement and validation of customer data
Before presenting our customer data enhancement tips, let us make two basic remarks.
Beware of dubious methods
Some methods of obtaining data sets are illegal or dubious at the least. In addition to legal or moral problems, they all have a snag: The people whose data have been acquired this way are not aware of it. If the companies do establish contact, the person contacted will obviously wonder why they are getting in touch with them? Even if they are interested in the services or product offered, they will be skeptical towards the provider because of this lack of clarity.
In the case of business takeovers, mergers and similar, the customers/interested parties must be informed about it. This helps avoid the above-mentioned impression. Furthermore, it is also a good way of validating previously existing data. Simply inform your customer about the takeover. At the same time, you can ask them to check their data so that you are able to continue to provide the best possible service.
Perspicuity creates trust
Skepticism disappears when the person being contacted knows where the company has acquired their data and why the company is getting in touch at this particular time. This creates a basis for a bond of trust and is perfect for a business relationship.
Let’s get started:
1. Check the data while entering them
As a rule, the person interested or customers directly enter most of their data on the Internet. These can also make mistakes. The zip code is often distorted or the name of the street is incorrectly abbreviated. A module similar to Google Autocomplete can help: Users enter the first letter of their street or their zip code and it suggests the correct address. This also makes it easier for smartphone users to enter their data.
2. Validating existing addresses
Addresses in existing data sets do not necessarily have to be validated through external service providers. Often just a few clicks are enough to delete doubles or incomplete addresses.
Regardless of the data you want to acquire, the user must know where to enter them. A logically structured and clearly designed form is therefore absolutely essential. Do not ask too much of users the first time you get in touch with them. Anyone who only wants information about a specific product does not want to provide more than an email address.
Other areas of interest can be requested once users have registered themselves on a website. For instance if they subscribe to a newsletter about a specific topic, a form on the next page can ask what other interests they have. This can also occur in the mail confirming the successful registration. You simply need to place the link to the topic selection form and ask the user to choose.
5. Determining the use of data oneself
Users want to be responsible for their own data. Giving them a user account can ensure this. Users then have the possibility of entering and changing information details themselves. They can also decide what they want to share. They can even define the frequency with which they receive the newsletter. The more control users have over their data, the more they are willing to share. This way you will obtain more details than by using tricks to tease information out of users.
6. Ask for help
Explain what you want from the user and ask for their support. They will be glad to help. For instance, you want to improve your service. Ask the user what else they are interested in, how much money they would be willing to spend for something, or similar questions. Clearly explain your interest in the information. The User must never be given the impression that they are simply being sounded out. In addition, this gives you the opportunity to find the weak spots in your services or products.
In the course of the survey, you can ask users to check whether the data they have provided are correct.
7. Inquiry in the case of longer inactivity
Has there been a long period of inactivity on the user account? Have there been no reactions to offers or contact attempts? Then don’t hesitate to ask why. You might want to offer a small reward for signing-in to the user account. If the user does get in touch, you definitely ought to validate the contact data. If the user does not get in touch, it is best to delete the non-active member. This ensures a current database.
However, it is important to carefully define the inactive period of time. It must not be too short, but also not so long that the user can barely remember you. A year is generally an adequate amount of time.
8. Small steps
Do not immediately request all types of information from your interested people. Proceed with care, for instance, by sending a friendly email inquiring about their date of birth. In this case, mentioning a birthday surprise can be helpful. Further information can also be acquired bit by bit in this way.
9. Connecting downloads
If users want to download something on your site, redirect them to their user account before the download starts. Ask them whether the information on their user account needs to be updated. But please avoid forcing users to provide additional data only to perform the download. This almost always discourages users.
10. Asking users to explain why they are unsubscribing
Most users do not unsubscribe. Most of them simply let their account be orphaned and redirect your notifications to their spam file. However, if users should unsubscribe, take advantage of the opportunity. Ask them to explain why. Point out that you want to improve your service. In some cases, a discount offer or a bonus can prevent deregistration.
11. Other options
The items mentioned above can be implemented on your website, landing page or in social media. However, there are data validation and data enhancement areas that can only be achieved with a lot of effort. These include existence checks, matching death records or risk index request. These can be handled by specialist service providers.
In the B2B area, it can be difficult to obtain full information from customers. Data of potential customers can be interesting for the acquisition of new customers in this case too. Contact data in the B2B areas can be ideally completed and validated through the clickworker „Address and Lead Enrichment Services“.
B) Enhancement and validation of product data
Correct and comprehensive product data are often decisive when it comes to making or not making a purchase. They improve your customers’ shopping experience, generate more sales and fewer forwarding returns due to ambiguous or missing product information.
Properly used, comprehensive product data can also significantly increase that your online shop will be found easily on Google and other sites. Correct and detailed product data are also essential for operators of Amazon or Ebay shops.
1. Search for data of wholesalers / suppliers – alternatives
Your wholesaler or supplier generally provides product data for your online shop. However, this service is not free. Photos of products are often hired out. To avoid these additional financial burdens, you can contact alternative suppliers or the manufacturer to obtain the relevant data. Manufacturers in China have recognized the lack of free, quickly usable product data and often deliver them free of charge with the goods.
2. Explore and rate new sources
Search for product data from sources other than the supplier. This can include exploring a competitors’ site.
Once you have found various sources, use the one with the highest information density.
3. Pay attention to the format
When searching for product information, always pay attention to the format of the data. PDFs or image files are usually unsuitable. To be able to automatically access the information at a later date, they ought to be in a text file, HTML, XML or in a comparable easy-to-edit format. Charts and database files are ideal.
4. Optimize data feeds
Product data available in the shop system are useless if they cannot be read by Google and other internet search engines.Google for instance demands a data feed. This is provided as a CSV or XML file and must be prepared in a particular way. You can find out more about the exact appearance of this feed and what must be taken into consideration in the Google Merchant Center support under the keyword: Product data specifications.
5. Define purchase relevant attributes and extract them from continuous text
Consider how you would search for your product if you were the customer. Which attributes would be decisive for your purchase decision? For a television set, it would be the size of the screen and not the weight, however, for a sleeping bag the weight is often decisive. These purchase-relevant attributes can be built into your data feeds.
If these important features only appear in the supplier’s continuous text, there are tools with which you can extract them. (Find out more at 10.)
6. Use synonyms for products
Some products do not always have a clear designation. In some cases it is only a combination of letters and characters. It is therefore important to add synonyms to the product data of the relevant items. For instance a “Head Mounted Display” is then described more commonly as “VR Glasses” or “Virtual Reality Glasses” or “Video Glasses”.
Synonyms can be manually defined. There is also software that automatically generates the most common designations for numerous products. (Find out more at 10.)
7. Standardize attributes
Data validation also includes standardizing attributes. For instance, clothes sizes must be the same. Customers are easily annoyed when one t-shirt uses international sizes and another one standard EU sizes. Customers can only easily search and compare when the sizes are standardized. Colors also ought to be broken down into basic color schemes. Ten different shades of red ought to be summarized as “red”. If you want to sell your goods in the EU, specifications in inches or pounds are impracticable.
The so-called data normalization can also be automatized by using the relevant software. (Find out more at 10.)
8. Tag products
Tag your products with additional keywords to optimize the internal shop functions and, where applicable, create new suitable categories. Men’s gifts, Christmas, Easter, souvenirs, Valentine’s Day, beginning of term, etc. are not standard attributes. However, if you want to enhance your product data with these attributes, you can create seasonal or special offer categories. If Valentine’s Day is coming up, every word that is tagged with the term “Valentine’s Day” will appear in this category. This makes it easier for your customers to find the right gift.
9. Make use of the automatization processes of the shop systems
Modern online shopping systems allow the establishment of rules according to which products are entered. They can also automatically convert measures or recognize missing specifications as errors etc. The options provided by automatization processes in online shops are nearly unlimited. By using them you will keep your product data up-to-date.
10. Take advantage of data enhancement and optimization software
The software needed to categorize the data, to optimize it for Google and to establish rules can be found under the Google keyword: Data feed optimization.
However, if you are missing thousands of product data and you do not have the necessary resources to extract them from possible sources (manufacturers, competitor sites, data PDFs or product packaging and images) then you might want to take advantage of the clickworker “Product Data Management“ and/or „Web Research“ services.
C) Enhancing and validating further data
In addition to customer and product data there are of course, depending on the offer of the web site provider, many other data that need to be continuously enhanced and validated, for instance the data for Yellow Pages. Depending on the type of data enhancement and validation, you generally need to proceed manually because even the most sophisticated software is not capable of what humans can achieve. Solutions can be found at clickworker under „Solutions for Information and Directory Services“.
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